EU pledges $4 mn in emergency Gaza aid

January 4th, 2009 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Jan 4 (DPA) The European Union’s (EU) executive Sunday pledged three million euros ($4.2 million) in emergency aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip affected by Israel’s week-long bombardment, even as Israeli tanks pushed into the territory.The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, “will provide an extra three million euros’ relief assistance in the Gaza Strip… The aid will be put into use as rapidly as possible to meet the basic needs of people affected by the Israeli airstrikes and by continuing access restrictions”, a statement released in Brussels said.

The EU is already the largest aid donor to the Palestinian Territories, providing over 73 million euros in humanitarian assistance in 2008, according to official figures.

And while the bloc sees Israel as a key partner in the Middle East, some EU officials have strongly criticised the Israeli assault on Gaza - although they have also condemned the rocket attacks by militant group Hamas which provoked the offensive.

EU aid “goes impartially to those who are most in need, in line with the principles of international humanitarian law. The obligation to respect these principles is universal and attacks from either side that kill or injure civilians indiscriminately are unacceptable”, EU Aid Commissioner Louis Michel, said.

“Blocking access to people who are suffering and dying is also a breach of humanitarian law. I call on the Israeli authorities to respect their international obligations and ensure a ‘humanitarian space’ for the delivery of vital relief,” he said.

The Czech government, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, is to head a diplomatic mission to the Middle East later Sunday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who held the EU’s presidency until Thursday and who is currently co-chair of his newly-formed Mediterranean Union, is also heading to the region for talks.

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